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Dr Helen Rutherford

Senior Lecturer

Department: Northumbria Law School

I am a qualified solicitor. I graduated from Newcastle University in 1989 with an LL.B (hons) degree and then completed the Law Society Finals at the College of Law in York. I have an MA in history and a PhD in legal history from Newcastle University. 

I trained as a solicitor with Hay and Kilner, in Newcastle, and on qualification worked in the litigation department handling both claimant and defendant personal injury and clinical negligence cases. After six years I moved to Crutes Law Firm (now DWF) where I conducted defendant personal injury and clinical negligence litigation on behalf of major insurance companies and the NHSLA (NHS Resolution).

I joined the University in 2012. I have a PGCE and I am a Qualified Teacher, a qualified coach, a Member of the Society for Education and Training, and a Fellow of the HEA. I am Programme Leader for the Law Foundation Year. I teach Civil Litigation, Legal History, and Inquests on the MLaw and LLB degrees. In previous years I managed civil firms in the Student Law Office and taught English Legal System, Tort, and Trials of Dissenters. I supervise final year archival/legal history projects.


Helen Rutherford

Campus Address

CCE 313

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

My research is in the field of Legal History. My specific research passion is coroners and inquests. I also research and write about nineteenth century lives, trials, and punishments- with a focus on the North East of England. I am interested in legal biography, images of the law, the use of digital newspapers for research, and microhistorical inquiry.

My Phd is titled: The Coroner in an Emerging Industrial Society: John Thedore Hoyle and Newcastle upon Tyne 1857-1885. 

Key Publications

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Courting Power: discussion and analysis of a courtroom-based art installation informed by a legal historical case study, Latchem, J., Rutherford, H. 2021, In: Law and Humanities
  • The Coroner in an Emerging Industrial Society: John Theodore Hoyle and Newcastle upon Tyne 1857-1885, Rutherford, H. Apr 2021
  • The Newcastle Gaol Project, Rutherford, H. May 2021
  • Advice for new law students, Kotecha, B., Rutherford, H. 1 Oct 2020
  • 'All That They Had Heard, All That They Had Seen': Questions of Fairness and Justice in the Trial of George Vass, Rutherford, H., Sandford- Couch, C. 12 Nov 2020, Fair and Unfair Trials in the British Isles, 1800-1940: , London, Bloomsbury Academic
  • An opium dream...: Celebrating the end of a pandemic: ‘the magnificent but incongruous assemblages of an opium dream.’, Rutherford, H. 16 Apr 2020
  • English Legal System [4th edition], Wilson, S., Rutherford, H., Storey, T., Wortley, N., Kotecha, B. 29 May 2020
  • Execution Culture in Nineteenth Century Britain: From Public Spectacle to Hidden Ritual, Low, P., Rutherford, H., Sandford- Couch, C. 30 Nov 2020
  • George Vass: the making and un-making of a criminal monster, Rutherford, H., Sandford- Couch, C. 30 Sep 2020, Execution Culture in Nineteenth Century Britain, London ; New York, Routledge
  • Introduction, Low, P., Rutherford, H., Sandford- Couch, C. 30 Sep 2020, Execution Culture in Nineteenth Century Britain, New York, Routledge

Professional Activity

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Invited talk: ‘The People’s Judge’: Examining the Life and Work of the Coroner for Newcastle upon Tyne 1857-1885 2021
  • Oral presentation: ‘A Great Amount of Curiosity in his Composition’ Portraits of a Borough Coroner. 2021
  • Invited talk: Death at the Newcastle Savings Bank 2021
  • Other: From Conference to Collaboration – Publishing An Edited Collection 2021
  • Other: Blog entries for Website about Newcastle Gaol 2021
  • Invited talk: Picturing early nineteenth century courtroom actors: Joseph Bouet’s images of judges, lawyers and felons at Durham Criminal Court (c.1825-1856) 2020
  • Oral presentation: Picturing Early Nineteenth Century Courtroom Actors: Joseph Bouet’s Images of Judges, Lawyers and Felons at Durham Criminal Court (c.1830-1856) 2020
  • Oral presentation: Bodies in and Bodies Out: Court in the Tyne 2019
  • Oral presentation: “To each case, great and small, he devoted all his care, his knowledge and his intelligence.” A developing study of the life and work of John Theodore Hoyle: the coroner of the Town and Borough of Newcastle upon Tyne (1857-1885 2018
  • Organising a conference, workshop, ...: 1868: A Civilizing Moment? Reflecting on 150 Years since the Abolition of Public Execution 2018

PGR Supervision

Gustavo Romano-Jackson Individual inefficiencies and collective losses: how companies are preparing an ageing population for retirement and post-retirement careers, and how laws can distribute and mitigate costs Start Date: 06/05/2021

Further Information

I am a member of the Royal Historical Society, the Seldon Society, the Society of Legal Scholars, The Social History Society, the Centre for Nineteenth Century Legal Studies, and Newcastle upon Tyne Law Society. I am co-convenor of the Law and Humanities Research Interest Group.

I carried out research for the TwentyTwenty/BBC TV programme A House Through Time for both the Newcastle and the Leeds episodes.

I have been an external moderator for a University Access course and I am an external examiner at the University of Westminster.


  • Law PhD
  • History MA
  • Law DipHE
  • LLB (Hons)
  • Fellow Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • Law Society- Member
  • Qualified Teacher Learning & Skills (QTLS)
  • Society for Education and Training- Member
  • Solicitor (Non-Practising) Roll of Solicitors

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